AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Ambulance service is essential for Augusta, but the question for commissioners at this meeting: at what cost? 

“We’re going to have to find the money. This $2.6 million is a little bit more than I imagined that it would cost the city of Augusta,” said Commissioner Bobby Williams.  

But with that, commissioners did approve a contract with Central EMS for ambulance service.  

The five-year deal with the city agrees to pay Central $2.65 million a year with that amount increasing by 3% a year over the length of the contract.  

“We’ve seen the back and forth over the last few months with Gold Cross. This gives us the opportunity to move beyond that. The details of this contract are in line with what we’ve been asking for,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.  

Under the agreement, Central agrees to meet certain response times or face fines if it doesn’t. 

It agrees to 14 ambulances on the street during peak times and to provide regular reporting on issues like staffing, accidents, and complaints. 

But the city has never paid a subsidy this large for an ambulance service with the money not being in the budget. 

“You get what you pay for. I’m banking on we get top notch service, and we’ll stay on top of it making sure that it’s top notch,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.  

“$2.65 million additional goes up to $3 million in year, and $5 million if you look at the 3% increase. That is a lot of money, but I feel confident that we can get to a solution to find the resources,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.  

“Will there be a tax increase because of this contract?”

“There better not be,” said Frantom.  

The vote was 8 to 1 to 1 in favor, but there is nothing in this deal to prevent Central from coming back to the commission in the future to request additional funding.